Twitter Is King, Twitter Is Dead

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print

Twitter is the heir apparent to the social networking crown currently held by Facebook. The only problem is that achieving greatness in social networking is tantamount to reaching irrelevancy. If Twitter is the new online king, we should start looking for a replacement now.

Google is going to acquire Twitter. Or Google is just feigning interest in the leading microblogging network. Or, perhaps, the world is just looking to further legitimize the home of the Tweet. Regardless, the hype engine is in overdrive to pronounce Twitter the indispensable, must-see social network of the Internet. And for that reason, let’s pronounce it dead on arrival now and be done with it.

Not a day goes by anymore that I don’t receive a call from some vendor or public relations firm saying that they’ll be tweeting from some event or, as in the case with Salesforce.com, talking about the integration of Twitter with business applications to monitor customer feedback.

In my beloved security community, the upcoming RSA Conference in San Francisco is providing ample backdrop (and excuses) for vendors and their hired-microblogging guns to warm up their fingers to tap out the happenings and occurrences 140 characters at a time.

But I must ask why the sudden surging interest in microblogging and, specifically, Twitter? I would argue that we, the members of the online world, are crowd-sourcing an heir apparent to the reigning king, Facebook.

The logic goes like this: Facebook has morphed from the coolest and hippest social network on the old InterWeb to a trailer park backwater. Facebook was really cool when all your college friends were linking up to coordinate parties and share music. But how cool is it when all of a sudden the kids you went to kindergarten resurface after a 35-year absence from your life and your grandmother has her own fan group. Recently, techno-blogger Mark Arrington declared Facebook dead, ironically on Facebook.

Worse yet, for Facebook, it can’t make money. It’s trying to find ways to raise money and stop the hemorrhaging of cash (Fortune reports that Facebook burns through $20 million a month to support its operations). Its once nonintrusive ads are become readily apparent to not-so-glossy-eyed users, and they do not like the Madison Avenue invasion.

The Facebook community is powerful. In fact, the Facebook community is so powerful that it has the ability to destroy their own network. So far this year, Facebook users have successfully revolted twice against Zuckerberg tyranny. First, they forced Facebook to reverse changes in its terms of service and content ownership policies. More recently, Facebook conceded to reverse several design changes to its profile homepages.

What Facebook users proved is that Facebook, the company, is powerless to make changes necessary to transform it into a real business. And why Facebook management wrestles with how to take the company to the next level without alienating users, users are hopping off in droves to the next big thing.

Don’t believe it’s happening? History is on the site of this argument.

Before there was Facebook, there was MySpace, which has been reduced to a music file sharing service and returned to its prepubescent roots. Before MySpace, there was Friendster, which remains missing in action. And before Friendster, there was America Online, which hosted many of the features we enjoy in Facebook today—chats, profiles, people searches, instant messaging, e-mail and personal musings.

Social networks don’t become obsolete, but rather irrelevant. The major social networks share many things in common—functionality, features, presentation, etc. What they also share is that they wither if they don’t attract enough users and they fall out of favor once they exceed a critical mass of users. MySpace peaked when it signed more than 75 million users. Facebook is done now that it’s approaching 200 million worldwide. As they’d say on "Happy Days," Facebook and MySpace still do what they’ve always done—they’ve just "jumped the shark."

But we need a new place to call our online home. We need a new place that everyone considers the "in" place. That place is apparently Twitter.

Go ahead and race to create your own Twitter account. Even follow me, if you like. But I will hazard to guess that you’ll quickly start asking why everyone is so crazy for Twitter. Yes, you can follow people’s musings in near real time, but how much of this micro information can you absorb? If you have hundreds of follows, as I do, are you really looking at all the updates? Will you really put a widget on your desktop to feed a constant stream of microblogs? It feels as though Twitter does well for a small group of friends or small workgroups, but doesn’t scale well into enterprise environments or global communities.

Ultimately, Twitter will likely not survive its own hype. Given its current form, success will bring the same problem that early intrusion detection systems brought us: so much information with no ability to absorb, process and prioritize into meaningful use.

So I invite you to become my Facebook friend, connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter. I will be in all these places until the next big thing comes along, which by my calculation should be shortly after Twitter is crowned as the new king.

Lawrence M. Walsh is vice president and group publisher of Channel Insider.

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Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.